What to Do When Your Lab Fails an Important Safety Inspection

These eight steps will help you solve the issue and ensure it doesn't happen again.

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  1. Is there an immediate safety hazard that must be addressed?
    If the safety inspection revealed an immediate hazard, fix it now. A serious safety violation poses a very real threat to your lab, your equipment and your staff. Do not delay in doing whatever is required to correct the situation.
  2. Is there a deadline for the corrections to be made?
    Other than immediate hazards, if you have two weeks or a month to get the rest of the issues resolved, dont wait for the deadline. If you have two weeks, do it in one. Make a list and fix things right, paying close attention to actual safety, not just following the technical requirements of safety. Following the rules is not enough to keep you safe. The lab must be engineered so that its easy to be safe there. This means clear pathways, no clutter, and organized supplies and tools.
  3. Is there a budget for the correction?
    If time and money have been budgeted for this improvement, your job just got a lot easier. But in these tough economic times, that might not be the case. Do not despair. Since your safety is not only important to you, but up to you, budget time every day to fix at least one area of your lab. If that means you have to stay late or come in early, do it.
  4. Are you working alone or with a team?
    If you have several people to help, assign tasks that each person can complete on his or her own or with a helper. Most cleanup and organizing jobs can be tackled by one or two people at a time. Smaller groups make the decision making easier as the project unfolds. Use these three steps: 1) Assign the task; 2) Clearly define the goal; 3) Set a deadline. A chart or graph showing the progress of each task is a great motivator for those doing the work and a valuable tool for management. Communicate your progress. This not only lets people know what is going on but also heightens the awareness of safety.
  5. Do you know exactly what to do and how to do it?
    If you are an expert in safety and organization, your task is easy. If you are not, its time to do the research that will ultimately save you both time and money. There are plenty of how-to articles and data on lab cleanup, lab safety and lab organization. As with any lab project, research spent up front will pay off enormously later on. Chemical hygiene is a vast subject, and although your lab has its own specific needs, the plans in place at industrial, medical and academic labs are readily available on the Internet. No need to reinvent the wheel. Take the best from the best and make it work for your lab.
  6. Why be clean and organized anyway?
    First of all, clutter is one of the major causes of accidents in the lab and second, its a space hog. Spillage, breakage and crosscontamination are common side effects of a cluttered lab bench. Not only are contamination and clutter bad for experiments and general scientific results, they make a bad impression on resident workers and guests.
  7. Does your lab have a mission statement?
    Just like walking into a classroom and balancing an unbalanced organic equation left on the blackboard which must be done to ensure creation of the right molecule, your lab needs a mission statement to ensure that it creates the right results. A mission statement not only clarifies your labs goals to you and your associates but lets management know that you know where you are going. Safety and overall lab success rely on communication and performance, but they need to be measured in real results. So write a short, clear mission statement for your lab.
  8. Whats new?
    Read. Read. Read. There is no substitute for spending at least 10 percent of your time keeping up with new developments and technology. No matter what field of science you are in, it is always changing. Even if what you read does not pertain specifically to your area of science, it will stimulate you to think and make changes you would not otherwise.

Published In

Survival Magazine Issue Cover
Survival

Published: January 1, 2009

Cover Story

Surviving Challenging Times

Most people dislike uncertainty. Therefore, the first priority of a manager should be to reduce uncertainty in the workplace by replacing fear, anger, and rumors with facts, sensitivity to employee concerns, and clarity of group goals and objectives.